NODWIN Gaming’s Sidharth Kedia on the Power of Mobile Esports in India, Mapping the Future

Esports in India has experienced unprecedented growth over the past few years. One of the key components for this rapid rise is NODWIN Gaming, the biggest tournament organizer in the country, hosting multiple esports events over the many years. 

The company has undergone a multitude of changes to adapt to the ever-evolving local esports circuit in the country. One such change is the recent addition of Sidharth Kedia as the organization’s group chief executive officer. Prior to joining NODWIN Gaming, Kedia held the position of executive vice president for mergers and acquisitions, data science and esports at Viacom 18; a media company based out of Mumbai, India. There, he identified a business opportunity within the esports industry.

“One of the new age opportunities I identified was esports. My hypothesis is that the youth in this country (India) are increasingly going to watch esports versus traditional sports over the upcoming years,” said Kedia. He is of the opinion that today’s 11-14 year-olds are not spending their time watching cricket with their friends as much as they are playing or watching PUBG MOBILE and other mobile games. 

While at Viacom 18, he interacted with his long time friend Akshat Rathee, the managing director of NODWIN Gaming, and concluded he had a much larger role to play in the future of the Indian esports industry. 

Kedia’s view of the state of Indian esports is clear: He believes that India has the numbers in terms of player-base and the viewers, however, he maintains that there is still a lot of room for the ecosystem to grow.

“While the network infrastructure is in place, the physical infrastructure such as gaming cafes and arenas for tournaments are still missing,” he said. He also believes that the financial incentive for esports players to make the leap is also not there yet.

In 2019, mobile esports saw unprecedented growth in India, commanding a 40% share of the country’s total esports prize money, and boasting viewership which is at least ten times higher than what Indian Dota 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) have ever managed. It’s no surprise then that Kedia believes that the biggest driver of future growth for esports in India is going to be mobile.

However, he also recognizes that the road is not that smooth yet and that there are still multiple challenges ahead for the company. “Esports is dependent upon the sustainability of a game and the critical mass of that game,” Kedia said. Multiple factors including gameplay, the esports mode, the competitiveness of the game, and the investment from the publisher play a part in the sustainability of the game.

As Indian esports viewership trends upwards, newer revenue streams will be unlocked both for NODWIN Gaming and its competitors. In terms of revenue, Kedia believes that the biggest slice of the pie will continue to belong to sponsorship, but he also mentions that media rights will see the biggest percentage gain over the coming years.

Kedia also revealed NODWIN Gaming’s roadmap for 2020, saying that it will be focused on three primary objectives. These include fundraising, creating more of its own intellectual properties, looking for opportunities to develop a public-private partnership to build esports infrastructure in India, and various other public initiatives.

The company is also looking forward to DreamHack Hyderabad 2020 where it intends to deploy its learnings, specifically with respect to scheduling and marketing, acquired through the two previous iterations in Mumbai and Delhi. Kedia revealed that DreamHack Open 2020, a CS:GO tournament with a total prize pool of $250K USD, will be organized by DreamHack’s global team at the event.

As with any sunrise industry, there are certain risk factors that market leaders need to be cognizant of. Consistent value creation by and for all industry participants is at the forefront of Kedia’s objectives. “The biggest risk that esports carries is that all the partners that contribute to the revenue of the industry have to continue to see value in it,” he said.

He believes that every constituent of the industry will have to come together and work together for it to reach greater heights. “All of us who are incumbents in the industry will have to ensure that everything that we do is value accretive. Value has to be created and generated for every constituent in the system. If we don’t do this, it is a risk. If we do it right, it is an opportunity because we will only go from strength to strength,” Kedia said.

Kedia also is of the opinion that the stigma against esports will go down drastically over the course of this year. “It is not a playground for geeks anymore. It is not something that happens on a small scale anymore. It has the potential to become a full-fledged large-scale industry which draws attention from all quarters of the government and society,” he concludes.

Vignesh Raghuram is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.

Disclosure: NODWIN Gaming is a client of and a minority investor in AFK Gaming.

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